Four Sides of the Same Coin

It became clear a while ago that the American political system, which has been rock-solid for decades, is now undergoing stress. Serious contradictions have appeared within the two leading political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. The current electoral campaign highlights this.

The U.S. presidential election is on Nov. 8, and the primaries have been so rough and caustic that there’s no internal unity to speak of within either party. Democrats are divided between their support for longtime competitors Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The president hasn’t even pulled his sensational joker out of his sleeve yet; he’s waiting for the party convention.

The Republicans are a complete mess. The GOP has already been sheltering the nationalist “tea party” for a long time, which is small comfort. Donald Trump doesn’t have the party establishment’s support to become their candidate yet. The bosses wanted Jeb Bush, but the voters didn’t. Trump is threatening to go it alone, meaning (with the people’s support), becoming an independent candidate if the higher-ups “screw” him.

The result of all this is that there are currently four candidates — two from each party. However, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that the candidates in the Nov. 8 election will be two of these four. As the convention rules are written, it’s entirely possible that none of them will move forward.

Nevertheless, this “great foursome” is in the public eye and makes announcements nearly every day. Most interesting of all to us are their words on Russia, as well as the statements regarding each candidate’s views on foreign policy.

For example, it’s interesting that Charles Krauthammer, an opinion writer for The Washington Post, gave each of the four leaders very specific political assessments. In his opinion, Bernie Sanders (Democrat) is a “pacifist.” Hillary Clinton (Democrat) is an “internationalist” (like a leader of the Second International returning from the grave). Ted Cruz (Republican) is a “unilateralist” (America uber alles!). Lastly, Donald Trump (still technically a Republican) is a “mercantilist” (money solves everything).

These assessments are debatable, but the classification is very telling. It’s telling in the sense that the elections don’t only feature representatives of two parties, but four trends. It’s like the four sides of America’s currently fragmented party system. That fragmentation is the defining characteristic of political life in America today.

So, what does that mean for foreign policy? How will the work of the State Department be defined by these visions if one of these candidates chooses the secretary of state? Let’s start with the two candidates who have the least to do with foreign policy: Sanders and Cruz.

Sanders expressed his opinion this way: The U.S. needs a certain period of isolationism to deal with its internal problems, most of all the economy and interests of the citizenry. Furthermore, he is mostly concerned about global climate change. As for the rest, he is vague: “We must work with our NATO partners, and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab League.” Clearly, Sanders is not an expert on international relations.

Cruz supports U.S. global leadership and is ready to defend American interests around the world, even without the support of allies. He is prepared to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran, revive the U.S.-Israel alliance, and carpet bomb the Islamic State group. He is skeptical about the United Nations. He called Obama’s position on Russia “weak” and a “policy of appeasement.” For him, foreign policy is straightforward and clear — America uber alles!

Then, there is Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, and Donald Trump, novice to major politics. Both of them have something to say about foreign policy nearly every week. Hanging over Hillary’s head is the sword of Damocles that is the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in 2012 and the use of a personal server for secret government emails. Her harsh rhetoric stems partially from a desire to justify herself in the eyes of her accusers.

She talks about the importance of “U.S. leadership in the world,” returning to her ideas in the old essay “America’s Pacific Century.” In general, she threatens to “establish order” everywhere. “We must demonstrate more unity in order to keep Russia from taking a more aggressive position in Europe and the Middle East.”*

Some pundits speculate that Hillary’s foreign policy will look similar to that of her husband, Bill, when he was in the Oval Office. Already, Hillary’s appeal that “a woman should finally occupy the Oval Office,”* has met thunderous laughter …

Donald Trump thinks about foreign affairs most of all. He plans to change course completely. He is for friendship with Putin, saying “if Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100 percent and I can’t understand how anybody would be against that.” He’s so opposed to Islamists that he’s willing to ban Muslims from the United States. He is ready to do everything it takes in foreign trade to “make America great again.” He is already criticizing NATO, and is completely capable of withdrawing the U.S. from the North Atlantic pact. He is unhappy with the expense of maintaining American troops in Japan and South Korea, among other places.

His approach looks more like the policies of a businessman always looking for profit. His approach has divided voters into two camps: either absolute love and support, or complete hostility. There have already been fistfights between these two groups during the primaries. Things won’t be boring with Trump.

Here’s a small example of what he might do: He invited the investor Carter Page, who promises to contribute ideas for improving relations with Russia, to be his adviser. Carter claims that his experience working with Russian companies allows him to see the “real world” when cooperating with Moscow, as opposed to the people “sitting in the comfort of their think tanks in Washington.” It’s well known that Page has experience working with Gazprom, and his business has suffered from the sanctions against Russia. That’s a personnel decision that speaks volumes about Trump.

On the whole, we’ll keep watching and listening to them for now. But don’t forget that anything can happen at the conventions, including having to listen to different candidates …

*Editor’s note: This quote, while accurately translated, could not be independently verified.

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1 Comment

  1. The U.S. election debate is what freedom and democracy are all about – everybody gets their say and everybody gets a vote. I wish the same for Russia some day 🙂

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